March 23, 2022•1,326 words
I know that the school system is frequently hated on for the "toxic" competition between students that it fosters, but I believe that the competition isn't intrinsically flawed. I do have to concede that as competition grows/lasts, Moloch  will enter the system more and corrupt it. That is what should be critiqued in modern society, not competition.
A common critique of competition is the stress it creates. However, what does it matter? Stress, no stress, upon death it won't matter. But what will matter is our impact on the world, and if that stress was exchanged for a lasting positive impact, then it will have been worth it, end of story. Of course, an early death would also be against this principle so it just has to be a balance. In the days of my belief in a binary free-will, I would've believed there to not be a need to balance stress: having free-will implies an infinite ability of man, and thus infinite ability to deal with stress. Even still, I'd be cautious before decreasing stress levels. Perhaps I can't really talk on this matter as I don't feel very stressed (nor am I).
Another common critique is of the rising standards. They extrapolate from our parents' generation seeing college as a ticket to a job and the present situation of this not being the case as an indictment of the growing job requirements. However, this is EXTREMELY obvious and intrinsic to progress. It makes me cringe so much when people fear that in the future people will need masters or PhDs to get jobs. OF COURSE YOU WILL! (assuming humanity lasts and same job). As mankind progresses, we will have a greater understanding of the unknown. This obviously leaves less low-knowledge information to discover, as they will already have been discovered. Thus we will need more education to cover our progress. It is akin to complaining that doctors need so much training to learn of all the knowledge of that health profession has made. Or that public works engineers need a bachelors when in the dark ages people just put a piece of wood as a bridge. Like you cannot be serious when you complain of this. Also, as we make more progress the world will become more complex (see Free Will - https://listed.to/@vt/33768/free-will). Thus the jobs people take will necessarily become more complex in their roles. Thus more education/training will be needed. I'd rather have someone with a master's in aerospace engineering design the rockets astronauts travel in than someone with a bachelor's (all else being equal). Also, this viewpoint completely misses the point of an education. The point of an education is to get knowledge, not a job. There are also the same people who plan on starting like a 4 member family when they grow up. As population grows, labor management can't scale exactly with it. Thus there will always be a surplus of population to jobs. Therefore their desire to increase the population is rather selfish and perpetuating of the very issue they complain of, as fewer jobs and more competition will make education more of a selection power.
A third common critique is the endless nature of it. They point out the grind to get into college, the grind to get through college, the grind to get a job, the grind in the job to succeed as the pointless nature of the competition. However, this is just life. You can read up on Buddhism for more of this view, but a similar argument can be constructed as to why eat and drink and breath if you only do it so the very next day, hour, second you do it again. At least with this there is progress towards the greater good (which can't be said of living).
I do have some criticisms of modern competition though. As a student, I frequently hear people say "that'll look good on your college app" or "go to college to get a job". THESE ARE NOT THE POINT OF THE COMPETITION!!!!!!! The point of competition is for everyone to grow: the competition allows for a comparison on standards and growth of it (and the educational competitions to promote greater knowledge). All of this is talk about how to game the system, when the rewards of the system are pointless if one games it. This is also why I hate cheating so much. There is literally no point to cheating, you lose knowledge, morals, ruin the competition, and can tarnish your own record. In any competition there has to be some losers, and if you have to cheap to avoid losing, you should be humble and graciously accept the defeat (similarly, I can't stand when my parents wish me to consume more to grow more. There, by definition, always has to be 50% of people less than the median height, and height is a worthless competition). Anyways, back to the point on education. Imagine how much better the world would be if people stopping thinking about how to get into college, or what will look good for college, they instead did productive things. This is my principle critique of modern competition. There is such a hyperfocus on how to do things, that you're sacrificing the value of actually doing things. This is greatly expanded on as Moloch here: https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/07/30/meditations-on-moloch/ <-(is a great article). Essentially, the gist of it is that if everyone behaves as a greedy algorithm optimizing for the competition's maximizing goal, then it will be inevitable that the competitors will sacrifice the integrity of the competition to gain temporary leads, and if everyone does it then the net result will be no one making any progress but with a loss of integrity. I believe the solution to this problem is perspective. If all the competitors realized that the competition is to maximize the goal to achieve a certain related goal that is violated with a sacrifice of integrity, then they won't do it. In the example of education, if people realized that college admissions is to select the best people for the highest chance of human progress, then they wouldn't waste progress by thinking of how to increase their chances of being selected.
It truly is remarkable though, how my experience of schools seem to reflect human developmental patterns in the real world though. I'll expand on this later, but from my (limited) observation it seems that there is very much as Heartland Theory-esque development for class rank at my school. Furthermore, the problems I outlined above that plague the education system plague the capitalist system as well. Further furthermore, there are various instances of how high ranked people tend to receive disproportionate benefits that help their rank, such as clustering together and improve one another (rich-get-richer anyone?). Admittedly, this may be limited to my experience as it seems that the class below and above me (2024, 2022 respectively) are pretty cutthroat. Maybe this is why my view of education is so much more positive than many others: my cognizance of the role of competition and the collaboration fixing the Moloch problem. At this point, some may realize that communism/collaboration avoids all these problems, and it does. I have one issue with communism/collaboration and that is its optimism in mankind's ability to act for the greater good. The very existence of money indicates that at the point of civilization's development, mankind was not ready (in terms of Free-will, see past article) to behave ideally. I think that communism/collaboration doesn't work as one approaches 100%, but at 100% it works and works perfectly. Then again, I'm not an economist nor have I read a lot of economic theory so I can't comment on the actual mechanisms of both theories.
In summary, the nature of competition per its definition seems to have no intrinsic issues (two or more parties competing for the same goods doesn't necessarily imply exploitation/injustice assuming a fair system).